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Dispatches from the Campaign Trail

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Dispatches from the Campaign Trail

The Marathon of Mind, Body and Spirit is the New Hampshire Primary

Daniel Kuhn, SPA/MPP ’16

Hillary Clinton, left, leads a campaign rally in New Hampshire for the 2016 primary

Every morning, my fellow AU students and I sketch out a plan to divide and conquer in order to hear different candidates and meet with strategists, journalists, and more. I hope to be able to hear as many candidates as possible this week, and speak with the voters that support them. Along the way, we’ll be gathering footage to present a documentary at the end of the semester, and of course, for these fine blog entries.

A Morning with Christie, an Afternoon with Hillary

New Jersey governor Chris Christie spoke at a running store to undecided voters in the morning. We used our press passes, and skip into the empty event space to set up our recording equipment in the cold warehouse portion of the facility. There was a massive press area: a two-level stand for recording equipment, and a row of journalists typing on their laptops. Local news. Cable news. Opposition research, like the DNC. It’s not unusual to see a lot of press at a major political event, but it occurred to me: he is only one of a dozen candidates. Imagining that kind of media presence at every event was mind-blowing.

There are a lot of moving parts to any campaign, and the last of those parts that many people think of work to put on events like this. Getting in the room before the voters let’s you see the logistics- the 7 people working to put the massive American flag in place, those putting a stage together, or fixing the sound.

Eventually, the crowd was let in, filling the room to capacity, and they wait. And wait. More on this later.

I’m trying to make the most of my time, interviewing voters in the crowd after I set up my equipment. I interviewed one family near the back of the crowd, and appreciated hearing their ideas. Then, I watched the same family be interviewed by two other media outlets during the next 10 minutes. As people were leaving a Hillary event that afternoon at a local middle school, people were bombarded by journalists (like yours truly) when simply trying to get from the school to their cars.

Cue the Bon Jovi, and in comes the Governor. Smaller events like this are the kind that simply isn’t possible at other states later in the campaign. It’s an opportunity to hit home a message in a personal way. High profile guests are regulars in New Hampshire, with Governor Baker of Massachusetts and Hogan of Maryland stumping for Christie at the event.

Alex Petron, a father there with his wife and daughter, told me he was there because he wanted to listen to a candidate with the ability to compromise. This audience is key for Christie, and is a theme he weaves throughout his speech. A big component was coalition politics, and being able to work with friends and foes.

Other major themes at this event and others were wage stagnation and opioid drug abuse. He also had an elaborate metaphor of how the U.S. Senate is just like elementary school, another point he needs to make sure lands if he is to gain ground on Cruz and Rubio.

Another thing made apparent by the New Hampshire primary: it’s hard to be a New Hampshire voter! The dedication is incredible to watch. Lines to get into the venue. Lines to go through security into standing room only gymnasium. It’s really hard, especially for the elderly, so in particular were struggling through a long event where, for security reasons, many bathrooms and drinking fountains are not accessible.

Political Tourism

It’s not just journalists that fill the hotels in New Hampshire this week. There are a lot of political tourists! Stand in line for a Bruce Springsteen concert, and you’ll see people who there for their 100th or even 250th show. I spoke to people like Pat Young who have been coming from out of state for every New Hampshire primary since 1980. These days he brings a couple dozen people with him to share the spectacle. Young explained, “You can talk to them. You can ask them questions. You can see how they behave with ordinary people. I think it’s something that everyone should do at least once.”

A Quintessential New Hampshire Experience at the Diner

From the time we ordered our authentic New Hampshire cuisine, we saw the primary in a nutshell. Presidential candidate Mark Stewart. Who? There are actually 28 candidates running in the New Hampshire primary, who filed the paperwork and paid the $1,000 fee. Many of these candidates are believers in a cause or specific issue, and spend a lot of time and energy for what most consider a lost cause. One of those people wanted to tell us all about potential failings over poutine and buffalo-chicken mac and cheese quesadillas.

A matter of seconds of one presidential hopeful moved away from our booth, low and behold, another journalist trying to hear the thoughts of some down-home Granite Staters. The dedication and proliferation of journalists is truly impressive. All the while, with all these events, our waitress didn’t even bat an eye. This isn’t her first rodeo. Such oddity is all too familiar for a New Hampshire native.

My Meeting with Mr. Trump

Later on that evening, we were collecting ourselves before the Republican debate. While walking the halls I saw a bomb sniffing dog, then a gaggle of secret service officers.

Going through the list of people with a detail who could possibly swing by our budget hotel, a frenzy took hold before my eyes. In unpredictable primary fashion, followed by a large secret service agent holding a Louis Vuitton was none other than Donald Trump.

What a beautiful exercise of Democracy.

Dispatches from the Campaign Trail